At our November Board meeting, we welcomed many members who came to speak during our Member Forum and to observe our proceedings. We appreciate members’ participation in governance, which is crucial for our cooperative model to function as intended.
Several questions raised by speakers at the forum center on suspicion of new leadership flouting product standards, enacting unethical measures to increase profit, and disregarding loss of institutional knowledge. These seem to stem from a particular view of the General Manager, which we believe does not fairly reflect his actual performance.
Public accounts of mishandling of a mis-delivered pallet to Three Rivers Market this summer have been thoroughly evaluated by the Board, including follow-up with the vendor in question, and accounts from both current and former employees. No wrongdoing has been discovered. The procedures being implemented at Three Rivers Market have been reviewed and affirmed by the vendor.
We do not have evidence that there is a pervasive and sustained erosion of product standards. Any individual incidents of errors have been swiftly corrected upon discovery. If any members or customers have concerns about a particular product, please first share them with a staff member, department manager, or the General Manager.
A recent breakdown in a relationship with a local produce vendor, Spencer Mountain Farms, was quickly and successfully repaired through the efforts of our General Manager. Their products are currently available in the store.
In early 2022, a national search for a new General Manager involved establishment of criteria by a search committee composed of current and former Board members. While previous cooperative experience was not a requirement, strong indication of willingness and ability to embrace a cooperative mindset was an absolute priority.
Three Rivers Market’s current General Manager, Fadi Aboush, was hired from a pool of candidates because of his relevant professional and educational experience, and for his clear personal alignment with the purpose and vision of a cooperative grocery store.
Before coming to Three Rivers Market, Fadi independently owned and operated a beloved market in the Fort Sanders area. He worked in management at Earth Fare, a lead competitor in the natural grocery sector. He holds degrees in psychology and business, and has past experience serving as a social worker.
One compelling demonstration of his alignment with cooperative values was revealed in the hiring process and relates to his care for the community he served in Seymour, where he was most recently the manager of a Dollar General Market. Under his leadership, the store increased access to fresh meat and produce for their customers, with special attention to serving the elderly population. He maintains close relationships with some of his former employees and customers to this day.
The Board required Fadi to complete a rigorous cooperative General Manager Development Program as a condition of his hire. This included mentorship and courses taught by experienced cooperative grocery General Managers, and was tailored to areas for needed development. Fadi receives ongoing support and continuing education through Three Rivers Market’s membership in National Cooperative Grocers, which includes attending two meetings per year for all General Managers in that cooperative.
Several of Fadi’s and staff’s accomplishments during his employment at Three Rivers Market demonstrate his commitment to cooperative values. These include: internal promotions and increased diversity represented among staff; phasing in compostable disposables; reinstatement of mixed recycling services; direct outreach to vendors; and innovation in prepared foods in response to shopper input via a formalized survey.
Fadi has overseen an increase in community engagement initiatives in the store, such as cookouts on holidays, special classes led by community members, monthly local art displays, and increased representation for Nourishing Change recipients in efforts to amplify their missions and boost member contributions.
We are troubled by the appearance of a concentrated few deeming an “outsider” unworthy of a leadership role within our cooperative – despite his professional credentials and personal values. Further, we have been disappointed in the dissemination of allegations via methods which bypass existing procedures, impede productive dialogue, and imperil Three Rivers Market’s hard-earned and well-deserved positive reputation in the community.
The Board is actively considering ways to recruit additional input from former and current employees to increase employee participation in governance. At our meeting, we voted to establish Staff Participation in Governance as the focus of the Board’s study and engagement beginning in early 2024, so that further action steps can be formulated.
If you weren’t able to attend the meeting but have ideas for governance that you would like to share with members of the Board of Directors, please stop by the dining area of the store during one of the times listed below. A couple Board members will be available at these times to collect your ideas and bring them back to the rest of the Board for discussion.
Thursday, November 16th, 10 AM-12 PM
Friday, November 17th, 2-4 PM
Wednesday, November 29th, 5:30-6:30 PM
Friday, December 1st, 12-1 PM
We encourage members to remain active in governance by attending meetings, speaking at the member forum, reading our Board News posts, sending us emails, and voting in our election, which is active until 5 PM on December 2nd. The electronic ballot was emailed to all members whose membership was active as of September 30th, 2023 on Tuesday, November 7th. Email boosts will be sent to members eligible to vote (who have not yet done so) on November 14th, 21st, and 28th.
Our annual meeting will be held at Cansler YMCA on December 2nd from 3:30-5:30pm. A registration form has been emailed to members.